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The importance of climate action and communication after UK local elections

Jamie Clarke, of ACT Climate Labs, explains how to win the battle for hearts, minds and ‘persuadables’ as disinformation rises and chaos actors sow culture wars seeds.

The local and national media landscape plays a pivotal role in shaping public opinion and influencing policy decisions. Too often perceptions of controversy overshadow the reality, hindering constructive conversations on pressing issues. For example, climate change and transportation. In the aftermath of the UK local elections and in the run up to the general election, the issues surrounding misinformation are starker than ever and had a profound political impact  

At a recent event, I discussed the role of modern and traditional media in transportation with Roger Harrabin, former BBC environment and energy journalist. We were in Oxford, a city whose transport policies have been at the centre of conspiracy theories and demonstrations, yet still champions some of the most progressive transport plans.

Traffic issues have appeared highly contentious in recent times. To what extent is the media responsible for fanning the flames? How do we break the cycle of ‘outrage-clicks’, take the toxicity out of the debate and hold genuine conversations, while still reflecting the wide range of views?

Climate misinformation appears to be on the rise, with regular attempts to use it as part of a culture war. But it appears that – at least for now, across the most politically engaged groups it’s not significantly converting to votes. This is supported by two ECIU polls conducted on Net Zero and ULEZ on the eve of the local elections. But it’s not all good news – results in Oxford and the West Midlands show that certain policies are yet to be vote winners, and the potential for climate policies to trigger significant opposition.

But a general election will be a different beast, and this one is likely to feature more misinformation than any before it. This poses a huge threat to Persuadables’ understanding of climate change and climate action at this crucial political moment.

‘Persuadables’ are a group of people that account for 69% of the UK population and are neither climate deniers nor climate activists. This group of Brits are hugely influential in the fight for climate action, yet their day-to-day media diets, from the social networks they use to connect, to the traditional newspapers they might glance over, are full of climate scepticism and misinformation. Surveys tell us 40% of people across the UK don’t consume any newspapers (print or digital), and younger groups increasingly get news from places like YouTube and Tiktok.

This is why, at ACT Climate Labs, we think of media diets that extend beyond traditional press, to encompass the online and offline places our Persuadables get their information. Climate communicators must engage with Persuadable audiences to ensure their message prevails over the misinformation propagated by adversaries. Misinformation has become our main competitor.

We’ve repeatedly seen the power of well-executed climate communication advertising campaigns. Our campaign for climate action organisation Possible, about the benefits of car-free cities, jettisoned the traditional climate campaign approach and instead used trusted messengers from Birmingham to increase relatability and effectiveness. Positive associations with Possible saw an uplift of 27% to 47%, and sentiment around ‘neighbourhoods should be for people not cars’ saw an uplift of 40% to 59%, with a 22% increase in willingness to drive less and take public transport more regularly.

As a business or charity, how else can we support positive climate action? We can do three things: inoculate the public against misinformation by reaching them with a positive message, reframe by communicating the benefits of climate policy, or rebut misinformation with the relevant facts.

selective color photography of person holding orange gas smoke standing on snow


The most powerful thing we can do is put out our own positive messaging about the benefits of climate action, independent of any messages that attack it. This way, people have a reason to believe the action will benefit them and are ‘inoculated’ against misinformation before they see it.

Our advice is to raise awareness of what climate solutions really look like. Lead on the benefits to target groups. This means talking about breathable air; safety for kids, less congestion, a less pressured health service; or cheap, British energy, instead of benefits to the climate first.

We strongly recommend paid media channels to reach Persuadable audiences. Read our paid media guide, and see a list of advertising case studies we have done in partnership with climate organisations to learn more.


The next best thing we can do to counter misinformation is to reframe the topic. This is less effective than inoculation because complex climate related topics are already poorly understood. Reframe the criticism as a net benefit, for Persuadables, local economy and for the environment. For example, when faced with a suggestion that climate action is too costly, you might reframe it to talk about benefits to local industry, job creation, or the welfare of people.


When misinformation has reached critical mass, we need to tackle it head on with rebuttals. The ‘Fact, Myth, Fallacy’ model was developed by academic John Cook to rebut misinformation in ways that are as ‘sticky’ as the original lie.

First, find a compelling explanation that replaces the falsehood. We create mental models for situations. If there’s a hole in them, we experience something called ‘cognitive dissonance’ and reject the evidence for a more intuitive explanation. Therefore, we need to create an equally intuitive – but correct – explanation.

Second, we need to order our argument carefully, according to the communication science:

  • Lead with the fact, so people anchor to that and not the myth.
  • Follow up with the myth that they have heard before (but, if they haven’t, we shouldn’t be doing this).
  • Point out why the myth isn’t true, by describing the logical fallacy (or reason the information is inaccurate).

We believe it’s important for climate communicators to prioritise talking to Persuadables especially in the lead-up to important events like general elections. This approach acknowledges that simply conveying the scientific facts is not enough. To win the hearts and minds of this key demographic, it’s imperative to present the information in a way that resonates with their values, beliefs and concerns.

By utilising such frameworks, businesses and charities can effectively navigate complex challenges and engage with communities in a meaningful way. Listening is paramount to understanding the concerns of the communities affected by climate change and transportation issues. Engaging in dialogue with a genuine intent to understand fosters trust and facilitates the exchange of ideas. Tell stories that relate to real people, and ideally advertise these through trusted spaces, such as local billboards and local newspapers.

Ultimately, the fight against climate change and for better transportation requires a concerted effort from all sectors of society. By embracing the ACT Climate Labs recommended framework, listening to community concerns, engaging in balanced media investment, and telling stories that resonate with real people, we can pave the way for a sustainable future. Together, we can build resilient communities and mitigate the impacts of climate change for generations to come.

More features and opinion: 

An expert’s guide to net zero and climate standardisation

How financial institutions meet ESG requirements through data and analytics

Less can be more: End of the road for private cars?




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